A couple of years ago, one sunrise in Hyde Park I captured a picture of two swans with their necks turning into one another, in perfect symmetry, I posted it on Instagram with the caption #RelationshipGoals. Something about the intimacy of their stance made me feel a surge to find the same intimate bond with another human animal, the kind that doesn’t need words, the kind that just is.

I found myself back in Hyde Park for a sunrise earlier this year and I noticed a lone swan. It was grubby and a little dishevelled, but it was doing a phenomenal job of tidying itself up with its beak, and meeting its own needs. It was a beautiful moment of self partnering.

As I watched this lone swan with darker patches of feathers and shades of beauty magnified by its own lived experience, I understood that that’s what true love is all about. Only once we have learnt to love and cherish ourselves first and foremost, are able to truly let our light radiate out into the world in relationship with others.

Sure, it’s beautiful to form a harmonious balance with another creature, but actually, just like our hero swan, you can only really do that once you have developed the harmonious balance within yourself. Once we realign our relationship goals to ourselves, only then do we open up the potential for that harmonious balance with another.

Lost love

There are many lucky people who grow up already loving themselves, but I was not one of those people. I made a firm assumption early on in my life that I was not loveable and that my own grubby feathers made me an unattractive prospect. I spent the next couple of decades avoiding myself, steeped in low self esteem and finding a million negative ways to prove those things to myself over and over again.

Around 10 years ago I ejected myself from a cycle of abuse; in the form of a relationship with another person, but most importantly, in the form of the relationship I was having with myself.

In the years that have followed I have fought and worked hard to get back to the essence of who I am, why I am and what made me make those very negative choices for myself. I also worked hard to evolve past those experiences, and let go of the expectations, stories and personas I have created for myself along the way.

A blueprint for joyful living

Somewhere in and amongst the past decade, I managed to create a life that feels amazing from the the inside out, one with joy at its very heart.

For me, joy isn’t an effervescent feeling of excitement. It’s the deep, connected feeling of calm that I get when I walk in alignment with myself and when I make decisions that I know truly serve me. Crafting a life where I have daily access to this joyful experience is the very essence of true self care, of self love.

Self love isn’t about something external; it is found in the way that we look at ourselves in the mirror and in the conversation that we have with ourselves when no one else is around. It is kindness. It is forgiveness. It is the love and care that we provide ourselves when we truly self partner; our ability to self soothe and our ability to self celebrate.

Where did I start?

It all begins with the quality we align to, that we move in and live in. The quality I used to live in was one of harshness. Harshness in terms of how I moved around the world, but also harshness in terms of the relationship I was having with myself.

I needed to learn how to treat myself tenderly and develop my relationship with gentleness. To do that, I needed to start by experiencing what gentleness feels like, because I honestly did not know. I did that under the pupillage of Sara Williams, who I continue to work with to this day.

We started with really basic things in day to day life, like the way you open and close a door, the way you move in the world, the way you cook a meal. By experimenting and trying to do this more and more, I started to become aware of the quality I was living in, and to make better choices.

Find your way back

Sadly for us human animals, we move in separation against the natural flow of things almost all of the time. A big part of my work with Sara has also been in learning to connect to myself via meditation.

By learning what I feel like when I am connected and in alignment, I have begun to be able to feel when I am stepping away from myself. Over the years, I have become a lot better at choosing not to do so. I can’t tell you this stuff is easy. It’s like building muscles in the gym, you have to keep up your regime to see any progress.

By deepening your relationship with you, you become better equipped to read the world around you and in turn, become better at relating to others. You start to realise that other beings are also just made of love, just like you, and that when you are experiencing bad energy from them, it’s not about who they are and therefore absolute, it is instead about the energy they are letting in.

That doesn’t mean you tolerate bad energy, it just enables you to become more peaceful at letting it pass you by when it shows up.

Joyfully ever after…?

The work continues. Like any solid relationship, you have to wake up with a renewed commitment to keep investing in your relationship with yourself each day, to tend to your dishevelled feathers and put your best webbed foot forward.

I allow myself a fresh start with every new day that dawns with one real goal; to be Ruth, at her essence, at her purest, at her realest. I forgive myself quickly and reinforce loving energy as often as possible. I seek not to remove those grubby feathers, but rather to show them proudly to the world, in order that the world gets to see the real me.

I work to become my own biggest champion, to have the courage to live daringly and to step fully into my power. At this point I am about up to my webbed footed ankles, how do you feel about stepping into the pond with me, and see if by the end of the year we can get up to our wrinkly knees…?

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